Assorted Links

  • Experiments suggest flu shots reduce heart attacks and death. Huge reduction: 50%. The new report (a conference talk, not a paper) is a reanalysis of four earlier experiments. I was surprised to learn that the CDC uses heart attack outbreaks to locate flu outbreaks, implying that the new finding is not a fluke — there really is a strong connection. I already knew heart attacks are more common in the winter, which also supports a connection with flu.
  • Une histoire des haines d’écrivains by Boquel Anne and Kern Etienne. Published 2009. About literary feuds. One of my students was reading a Chinese translation.
  • Correspondences between sounds and tastes.
  • Report on fraudulent Dutch research. “The 108-page report says colleagues who worked with Stapel had not been sufficiently critical. This was not deliberate fraud but ‘academic carelessness’, the report said.” I doubt it. Based on my experience with Chandra, I believe Stapel’s colleagues had doubts but did nothing from some combination of careerism (doing something would have cost too much, for example  a lot of time, and gained them nothing), ignorance (not their field), and decency (they saw no great value in ruining someone).  I wonder if the report considered these other possible explanations (careerism, ignorance, decency).

Thanks to Tim Beneke.

7 Replies to “Assorted Links”

  1. Scientists urge ministers: tell truth on ‘over-hyped’ flu vaccine

    The vaccine given to millions of people each year in Britain is “over-promoted” and “over-hyped” and the protection it offers against the seasonal illness has been exaggerated, scientists claim.

    Professor Osterholm, an US public health adviser whose report “The Compelling need for game changing influenza vaccines” was published last month, said: “Our report is very comprehensive. It took three years, we reviewed 12,000 peer reviewed papers and interviewed 88 experts from around the world. We took no money from the private sector or governments – we had no conflicts of interest.

    “The most striking outcome is that we have over-stated the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine. That has had a very dampening effect on the development of new vaccines.”

  2. @MikeB: the two pieces of work may be compatible if you interpret the Indy article as saying that flu vaccine does only a mildly useful job at shortening flu episodes and keeping people out of hospital, and interpret the conference talk as saying “but it seems to do a fine job at preventing heart attacks”.

    Still, it’s always worth remembering that “All medical research is rubbish” is a better approximation to the truth than almost all medical research.

  3. @dearieme: I like your quote “All medical research is rubbish” is a better approximation to the truth than almost all medical research

    What are the chances that this research is true and important? 1 in a 10000?

    Meanwhile, here is something to consider:

    Both of the following statements can be true at the same time:

    Healthy people taking statins reduce their heart attach risk by 33%.
    Healthy people taking statins have a 99% chance of receiving no benefit.

    Reductions in relative risk don’t matter as much when overall risk is low. Let’s say your risk of having a heart attack over 5 years is 3 per cent. Let’s say a statin reduces that risk to 2 per cent. Relative risk has fallen by a third, right?
    But the real reduction in risk (known as the ‘absolute risk reduction’) is just 1 per cent (3 per cent minus 2 per cent).

  4. I found the second part of the article about flu shots even more interesting than the reduction in heart attacks. A second study they discussed showed that patients with ICD’s or implantable cardiac defibrillators (the small units that shock your heart back into rhythm if it stops or otherwise gets out of rhythm – so this is a separate subset of patients with heart problems) had fewer ICD shocks during flu season if the patients had gotten a flu shot. For someone with an ICD getting shocked is unpleasant (and scary), which is why the researchers picked up on it but what would be the connection with a flu shot??? Very interesting but why this would work is a mystery.

  5. At least the reduction in number of ICD shocks is, I imagine, “hard data”: the ICDs are presumably interrogated regularly, so there’s no need to rely on the accuracy of people’s reports?

  6. @MikeB

    Likewise if your risk for having a heart attack goes down, but the chance of that heart attack being fatal goes up, have you really benefited?

Comments are closed.